tv [untitled] April 20, 2012 2:00pm-2:30pm EDT
his extraordinary life leadership on behalf of civil rights and these issues. congressman conyers was a real mentor to me when i was in the house, and still is, and we thank you very much for your leadership on this issue. senator durbin you pointed out the nation was shocked. if i could ask unanimous consent to put my entire statement in the record, along with the list of the many organizations that are supporting the legislation that i filed, s-1670. as you pointed out, senator durbin, that the nation was shocked by the tragedy that took place in sanford, florida, the tragic death of the 17-year-old trayvon martin, a very avoidable death. and the question i think most people are asking, and we want justice in this case and we're pursuing that. we have the department of justice investigation and we all very much want to see that investigation carried out, not only to make sure that justice is carried forward as far as those responsible for his death,
but also as to how the investigation itself was handled. but i think the question that needs to be answered is whether race played a role in trayvon martin being singled out by mr. zimmerman, and that, of course, would be racial profiling, an area that we all believe needs to be -- we need to get rid of that, as far as legitimacy of using racial profiling in law enforcement. in october of last year, i filed the end racial profiling act, and as you pointed out, carrying on from senator feingold's efforts on behalf of this legislation. i thank you for your leadership as co-sponsor. we have 12 members of the senate that have co-sponsored the legislation, including majority leader, harry reid, as co-sponsor. racial profiling is un-american. it's against the values of our nation. it's contrary to the 14th amendment of the constitution equal protection of the laws. it's counterproductive in keeping us safe.
it's wasting valuable resources that we have. and it has no place in modern law enforcement. we need a national lockers and that's why i encourage the committee to report 1670 to the floor. it prohibits use of racial profiling, that is using race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in selecting which individual is to be subject to a spontaneous investigation activity, such as a traffic stop, such as interviews, such as frisks, et cetera. it applies to all levels of government. it requires mandatory training data collection by local and state law enforcement, and a way of maintaining adequate policies and procedures designated to end racial profiling. the states are mandated to do that or risk the loss of federal funds. the department of justice is granted authority to make grants, to state and local
governments to advance the best practices. as i pointed out it has the support of numerous groups and you'll be hearing from some of them today. let me just conclude, as my statement will give all of the details of the legislation, by quoting our former colleague, senator kennedy, when he said civil rights is the great, unfinished business of america, i think it's time that we move forward in guaranteeing to every citizen of this country equal justice under the law, and s-1670 will move us forward in that direction. thank you. >> thank you, senator cardin. i might also add we're at capacity in this room and anyone unable to make it inside the room will have an overflow room in dirkson g-50, two floors below us here. senator graham suggests we proceed with the witnesses. next up congressman john conyers. the house sponsor of the end racial profiling act.
ranking member of the house judiciary committee. serving in the house of representatives since 1965, john conyers is the second-longest serving member. i think second to another member from michigan, if i'm not mistaken. congressman conyers testified at both previous senate hearings on racial profiling in 2000 and 2001. congressman, we are honored to have you here as a witness and the floor is yours. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and to your colleague, who is another former house member if i remember correctly, and senator ben cardin, as well. all of you are working in the backdrop of a huge discussion that has been going on for quite some time. when i came to the congress and asked to go on the judiciary
committee in the house, and that was granted, emmanuel seller was then the chairman who did such landmark work in the civil rights act of 1964. and then we followed up with the voter rights act of 1965. and from that time on, a group of scholars, activists organizations, civil rights people, and americans of good will have all began examining what brings us here today, and accounts for the incredible long line that is waiting to get into this and the holding room today.
i come here proud of the fact that there is support growing in this area. only yesterday we had a memorial service for john peyton, known by most of us here for the great work that he has done and contributed in civil rights. not just in the courts and in the law, but in what i think it is the purpose of our hearing here today. namely, to have honest discussions about this subject so that we can move to a conclusion of this part of our history. and so i'm just so proud of all of you for coming here and
continuing this discussion because it's going to turn on more than just the legislators or the department of justice and i am -- i am with you in improving some of their recommendations and i commend eric holder for the enormous job that he has been doing in that capacity. but this is a subject that is a part of american history. the one thing that i wanted to contribute here is what racial profiling isn't. racial profiling does not mean we cannot refer to the race of a person if it is subject specific
or incident specific. we're not trying to take the description of race out of law enforcement and its administration. what we're saying that racial profiling is -- must not be subject specific or incident specific. and that's what we're trying to do here today. it's a practice that is hard to root out. i join in praising the overwhelming majority of law enforcement men and women who want to improve this circumstance, but, you know, one
of the greatest riots -- race riots in detroit that occurred was because of a police incident was started. we have in detroit right now a coalition against police brutality. ron scott, an activist and a law student, is working on that, been working there for years. and so we encourage not only this legislative discussion about an important subject, but we -- we praise our civil rights organizations that have been so good at this, the naacp, the legal defense fund of naacp, the american civil liberties union,
and scores of coalitions of community and state organizations that have all been working on this just as we have and are. so i believe that there's going to be a time very soon when we will pass the legislation that you worked on in the house and the senate and that we will -- we will enjoy that day forward but we will celebrate this movement forward to take the discussion of race out of our national conversation not because we're sick and tired of it, but because it's not needed any further. i thank you very much for this invitation. >> congressman conyers, it's an honor to have you in the senate judiciary hearing.
i thank you very much. our next witness your my friend and illinois colleague, congressman luis gutierrez. he chairs the congressional hispanic caucuses immigration task force and is a long time champion for immigration reform. there are many outstanding hispanic political leaders in america, but none more forceful and more articulate and more of a leader than my colleague. congressman gutierrez, thank you for joining us. >> thank you so much, chairman durbin, ranking member graham, for inviting me to testify here today. i'm -- one of the proudest things i am being in the state of illinois is the senior senator from my state. so i'm happy and delighted to be with you here today. i traveled from coast to coast to visit dozens of cities and communities and listen to immigrant stories, some of my colleagues have visited their cities that are here today. immigrants tell me they are regarded with suspicion,
at the -- they tell me they are frequently treated differently because of the way they look, sound or spell their last name. in alabama, i met 20-year-old marta, a young woman raised in the u.s. one late afternoon driving, she was pulled over, arrested for driving without a license, and jailed so her status could be checked. because her u.s. citizen husband was not present, their alabama born 2-year-old son was taken from the back seat of her car and turned over to the state welfare agency. south carolina i met gabino, who has been in the u.s. nearly 13 years, married, father of two south carolina-born kids who works hard, owns his own home. he was stopped because he was pulling into his mobile home community, one of three other hispanic residents stopped that evening. he was arrested driving without a license and then placed and deportation proceedings. we can all guess why the police chose to stop them. profiling hispanics and
immigrants is the efficient way to get someone deported but you can't tell if someone is undocumented by the way they look or dress or where they live. in chicago, a puerto rican constituent of mine detained for five days under suspicion of being undocumented. and indeed, sadly, senators, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of unlawfully detained u.s. citizens and legal residents in the united states each year in violation of their constitutional rights. some of them have even been deported and then been brought back to the united states of america. that's not an old story. that's a story of today. the federal government took a step in the right direction when it legally challenged the show me your papers laws in alabama, south carolina, and arizona. because the state laws are unconstitutional and interfere with the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration policy. but it makes no sense to file suit against unconstitutional laws on the one hand, and on the
other hand, allow those same laws to funnel people into our detention centers and deportation pipeline. gabino has been denied relief from dough pour takes because he's been stopped too many times, according to the federal government, for driving without a license. the government is complicit in serial profiling because the states cannot deport him and break up his family of american citizens, the federal government is doing just that. and programs like 287-g, secured communities, end up ensnaring tens of thousands of gabinos every year because of the racial profiling, the programs incentivize. if we're serious about truly ending racial profiling, we need to back up our lawsuits with actions that protect families and citizens and children and uphold our constitution. i guess the gist of it is, i'm happy when the federal government says, this is racial
profiling, we're going to fight it, and they go into the federal court in arizona and south carolina and in alabama. but until we tell the local officials if you continue a serial profiling we are not going to deport those people. they're going to continue to do it, it just incentivizes. i hope we can have a conversation about that also. thank you so much for having me here this morning. >> thank you, congressman gutierrez. congressman keith ellison of minnesota, serving his third term, representing the 5th congressional district in that state, co-chairs the national progressive caucus. congressman ellison enjoys a moment in history here as the first muslim elected to the united states congress, previously he served two terms in the minnesota house of representatives. congressman ellison, welcome. the floor is yours. >> thank you, senator durbin. also thank you, senator graham. thank you for holding this important hearing.
thank you for urging attorney general holder to revise the justice department's racial profiling guidance. it's very important. as you know, that guidance has a loophole allowing law enforcement to profile american citizens based on religion and national origin. while many -- any profiling of americans based on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is disturbing, i think it's important also to note that it is poor law enforcement. law enforcement is a finite resource. using law enforcement resources profiling as opposed to relying on facts based on behavior suggesting a crime is a waste of that law enforcement resource. it leaves us less safe and more at risk when we don't target based on conduct and behavior suggestive of a crime, but based on other considerations and formed by prejudice. my comments will focus on
religious profiling of american muslims. americans know what it looks to be -- muslim americans work hard and play by the rules and infinitesimally small number don't, many even live the american dream and send their kids to college and earn a living just like everyone else, yet many know all too well what it means to be pulled off of an airplane, pulled out of line, denied service, called names, or even physically attacked. like other americans, muslim americans want law enforcement to uphold public safety and not be viewed as a threat but as an ally. when fbi, for example, shows up at homes and offices of american muslims, who haven't done anything wrong, it makes them feel targeted and under
suspicion and it diminishes the important connection between law enforcement and citizen that is necessary to protect all of us. when muslim americans get pulled out of line in an airport and questioned for hours, ask questions and these are accurate -- questions actually asked, where do you go to the mosque? why did you give them $200 donation? do you fast? do you pray? how often? when questions like this are asked which have nothing to do with conduct behavior suggestive of a crime, it erodes the important connection between law enforcement and citizen. no americans should be forced to answer questions about how they worship. i was particularly disturbed when i heard stories coming out of the controversy in new york about kids being spied on in colleges at the muslim student association. i was very proud when my son was elected president of the muslim
student association at his college. i wondered, was my 18-year-old son subject to surveillance like the kids were at yale, columbia, and penn? he's a good kid, never done anything wrong, and i worried to think that he might be in somebody's filed simply because he wanted to be active on campus. i am a great respecter of law enforcement, and i recognize and appreciate the tough job they have to keep us safe. but i think it is very important to focus on the proper use of law enforcement resources and not to give a opening for someone to stereotype or prejudice. as one bush administration official once said, religious or racial stereotyping is not good policing and it threatens the values americans hold dear. to fix this problem, i urge the attorney general to close the
loophole in the justice department's racial profiling guidance, and i urge my colleagues in congress to pass the end racial profiling act. thank you. >> thanks, congressman ellison. i could have added in my opening statement comments made by president george w. bush after 9/11, which i thought were solid statements of constitutional principle, particularly when it came to those adherence of the muslim faith that our war is not against this islamic religion but against those who would corrupt it, distort it and ms. use it in the name of terrorism. i thank you for your testimony. congresswoman judy chu represents the 32nd district in california. since 2009. she was the first chinese american woman elected to congress. she chairs the congressional asian pacific american caucus, formerly served in the california state assembly. we're honored that you're here today. please proceed. >> thank you, senator. as chair of the congressional asian pacific american caucus,
i'm grateful for the opportunity to speak here today about ending racial profiling in america. asian-americans and pacific islanders like other minority communities have felt the significant effects of racial profiling throughout american history. from the chinese exclusion act to the japanese american interment and the post 9/11 racial profiling of arab, sikhs, muslims and south asian-americans we know what it's like to be targeted by our own government. it results in harassment, bullying, and sometimes even violence. in the house judiciary committee we recently listened to the anguished testimony of sikh americans, constantly humiliated as they were pulled out of lines at airports because of their turbans and made to wait in glass cages bike animals on display. they were pulled into rooms to be interrogated for hours, an even infants were searched.
this has forced sikh americans and muslim americans to fly less frequently or remove religious attire. just to accommodate these unfairly targeted practices. and just last year, i was shocked to learn about the activities of the new york police department and the cia, who were secretly spying on muslim americans. despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing, officers were monitoring muslim american communities and eavesdropping on families, recording everything from where they pray to the restaurants they ate in. the nypd entered several states in the northeast to monitor student organizations in college campuses. these students had done nothing suspicious. the only thing they were guilty of was of practicing islam. this type of behavior by law enforcement is a regression to some of the darkest periods of our history where we mistrusted our own citizens and spied on their daily lives and it has no place in our modern society.
when law enforcement uses racial profiling against a group it replaces trust with fear and hurts communication. the community and law enforcement, instead, need to be partners to prevent crimes and assure the safety of all americans. when the civil liberties of any group is violated we all suffer. in fact, over 60 years ago, during world war ii, 120,000 japanese americans lost everything that they had and were relocated to isolated interment camps throughout the country because of hysteria and scapegoating. in the end not a single case of espionage was ever proven, but there were not enough voices to speak up against this injustice. today, there must be those voices that will speak up. we must stand up for the rights of all americans. that is why i urge all members of congress to support the end
racial profiling act. we must protect the ideals of justice and equal protection under the law so that our country is one where no one is made to feel unsafe, unequal, or un-american because of their faith or ethnicity. thank you. >> thank you, congresswoman. the next witness, congresswoman fredricka wilson, she represents the 17th congressional district which is, i understand, includes sanford, florida. previously, she served in the florida house of representatives from 1999 to 2002. and the florida senate from 2003 to 2010. congresswoman wilson, thank you for joining us today, and proceed. >> thank you. i represent miami, where trayvon was from. he was murdered in sanford. thank you. thank you, chairman durbin, ranking member graham and
senator bleem -- blumenthal and other members of the subcommittee. i thank you for inviting me to testify today on the issue of racial profiling. last week, after 45 days, an arrest was finally made in the shooting death of my constituent, trayvon martin. trayvon was a 17-year-old boy, walking home from a store. he was unarmed and simply walking with skittles and iced tea. he went skiing in the winter and horseback riding in the summer. his brother and best friend is a senior at florida international university of miami. a middle class family, but that didn't matter. he was still profiled, followed, chased and murdered. this case has captured international attention and will go down in history as a textbook example of racial profiling. his murder affected me personally, and it broke my heart again. i have buried so many young
black boys, it is extremely traumatizing for me. when my own son, who is now a school principal, learned how to drive, i bought him a cell phone because i knew he would be profiled, and he was. he is still fearful of law enforcement and what they might do when he is driving. i have three grandsons, a 1, a 3 and a 5-year-old. i hope we can solve this issue before they receive a driver's license. i pray for them even now. there's a real tension between black boys and the police, not perceived, but real. if you walk to any inner city school and ask the students, have you ever been racially profiled? everyone will raise their hands, boys and girls. they've been followed as they shop in stores, they have been stopped by the police for no apparent reason, and they know at a young age that they will be profiled.
i'm a staunch child advocate. i don't care what color the child is. i was a school principal, a school board member, a state legislator, and now in congress. i desperately care about my welfare of all children. they are my passion. but i've learned from my experiences that black boys in particular are at risk. years of economic and legal disenfranchisement, legacy of slavery and jim crow led to serious social, economic and criminal justice disparities and fueled prejudice against black boys and men. trayvon martin was a victim of the legacy. the legacy that has led to fear, this legacy that has led to the isolation of black males, this legacy has led to racial profiling. trayvon was murdered by someone who thought he looked suspicious. i established the council on social status of black men and boys in the state of florida
when i was in the state senate. i believe we need a council or commission like this on the national and federal level. everyone should understand that our entire society is impacted. a federal commission on the social status of black men and boys should be established specifically to focus on alleviating correcting the underlying causes of higher race of school expulsions and suspensions, homicides and incarcerations, poverty, violence, drug abuse, as well as income, health and educational disparities among black males. i have spent 20 years buildings a mentoring and dropout prevention program for at-risk boys in miami-dade public schools. it's called the 5,000 role models of excellence project. boys are taught not only how to be productive members of society by 'em lagt mentors who are role models in the community, they are also taught how to respond to racial profiling.
it is sad reality that we have to teach boys these things just to survive in their own communities, but we do. we need to have a national conversation about racial profiling now. not later. the time is now to stand up and address these issues and fight injustice that exists throughout our nation. enough is enough. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, congresswoman. unless my colleagues have questions of this panel, i will allow them to return to their senate house duties. thank you very, very much for being here today. now, we'll turn to our second panel of witnesses. and each of them will please take their place at the witness table.